Audit tick marks

Audit tick marks are abbreviated notations used on audit work papers to denote auditing actions taken. These tick marks are useful from the audit manager's perspective, to see which activities have been completed. They are also useful as evidence, to show which audit steps were completed to support the audit opinion given to the financial statements of a client. In addition, the use of tick marks compresses the space required to describe audit actions taken, which improves the usability of the audit documentation.

Examples of auditing activities for which tick marks may be used include:

  • The numbers in the column were manually added and matched to the total shown (footed)
  • The totals in the report were manually added and matched to the grand total shown (cross footed)
  • The computation on the report was independently verified
  • The amount was traced to the ledger balance
  • Supporting documents were examined
  • A cancelled check was examined
  • An asset was physically confirmed

Audit tick marks are not standardized across the industry. Instead, a common set of tick marks is used within each audit firm, with some variation across the industry. Tick marks may just as easily be used within an internal audit department as by outside auditors, and may be unique to each department.

When used, a tick mark should be sufficiently distinct that it cannot be confused with another type of tick mark. Also, an audit firm should internally publish a listing of "official" tick marks used and what each one means, so that they are used by the staff in a consistent manner across all audits.

Customized tick marks were more heavily used when auditing was done primarily on paper documents. When used in that manner, tick marks are more likely to be recorded with a colored pencil, such as in red. Since the advent of auditing software, tick marks can be designated and standardized within the software.